The point is, I’m constantly using headphones throughout my day. For instance, I’ll wear my portable earbuds when I’m at the gym, but I’ll also use my more substantial studio headphones for deep listening sessions here at Pickup Plug HQ.
I’ll also take my studio headphones with me when I head to my music studio. The audio quality I get with these bad boys is out-of-this-world good, meaning that I catch every note and layer of audio during the recording, mixing, and mastering processes.
At this point, I’m sure some of you are asking: What are studio headphones? And how are they different from run-of-the-mill headphones or earbuds you can buy at a big box electronics shop? In this buying guide, I’ll provide answers to both of these questions. Most importantly, I’ll help you figure out what headphone features to look for when you’re in the market for your first pair of studio headphones.
6 Best Studio Headphones – The Pickup Plug Selection
|Rank||The Cans||Best For||Our Score|
|1||Sennheisser HD 800 S (View on Amazon)||Uncompromising Audiophile Quality||10.0|
|2||Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro (View on Amazon)||Professional Quality and Comfort||9.6|
|3||Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro 250 (View on Amazon)||Avid Home Studio Enthusiasts||9.3|
|4||Sennheisser HD 600 (View on Amazon)||Mixing - Particularly Transient Response||9.1|
|5||Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (View on Amazon)||A Step Up from Entry Level||9.0|
|6||Sony MDR7506 (View on Amazon)||Affordable Option Flat Frequency Response||7.7|
Buying Guide – Choosing your Studio Headphones
Some Tips for Buying Your Studio Headphones
Studio headphones were first developed to help music producers and audio engineers during the mixing and mastering process. Producers and sound engineers want headphones that enable them to hear all of the details, notes, and frequencies of a song. For this reason, most of the studio headphones we carry at Pickup Plug are designed to make the frequency response as neutral as possible when you’re listening to an audio file or song. A neutral frequency response will give you a clear, unaffected sound quality, which is what producers need to effectively fine tune a song.
Because studio headphones are designed for music professionals and serious music fans, they are constructed from only the finest materials. For example, the headphones reviewed at Pickup Plug feature bodies constructed from thick, durable plastic, have high-quality leather ear pads and are reinforced with adjustable metal ear clips.
Contrast that with the cheap plastics and second-rate metals used in lower-end headphones, and studio headphones emerge as a clear winner if you’re buying a set of headphones with quality and longevity in mind.
Different Types of Studio Headphones
To meet the demand of music fans who craved professional-quality headphones but still wanted to have a more bass-heavy sound, some studio headphones now feature a boosted bass feature that allows you to adjust the bass of the music you’re listening to.
But for people wanting to dig deeper into studio headphones, the two most common types of studio headphones you’ll encounter on your quest to find the perfect pair of headphones are open-back headphones and closed-back headphones.
Closed-back headphones are great for guys who need a go-to pair of headphones for recording their first hit album. This is because closed-back headphones offer complete (or near complete) sound isolation. Instead of being bothered by other external or ambient noise, wearing a pair of closed-back headphones while you record will allow you to completely focus on the sounds you’re making.
Alternatively, open-back headphones are ideal if you plan on doing lots of mixing, mastering, or song production. Open-back headphones offer the best possible sound quality, which is necessary when you’re editing a track. While close-back headphones give you that sense that the music is confined to your headphones, open-back headphones make it seem like the music you’re playing is part of the larger ambient environment. The reason for this is that open-back headphones send sound not just towards your ears, but also to the outside of your headphones, giving you sound from two different directions.
Features to Look For in Studio Headphones
If you’ve spent years buying cheap headphones and earbuds, you know the pain of having to untangle knotted up headphone cords. Not only that but when these cords are twisted and knotted up, they are extremely sensitive and tear or rip quite easily. Similarly, how many times has sound suddenly stopped coming out of one ear of your cheaper headphones, but not the other?
These annoying durability issues are a huge part of why we at Pickup Plug only recommend you buy studio headphones that feature thick coil cords that are detachable from the headphones. The thicker, more robust coil cords that are found on top-of-the-line studio headphones do not fray, tangle, or wear down as easily with regular use as cheaper alternatives.
We also suggest purchasing a pair of studio headphones that has a detachable cord. A detachable cord is necessary if you’re in a studio environment because you’re constantly going back and forth between your computer and audio equipment as you record, plugging in and out of things as you go. Just as importantly, a detachable cord eliminates the possibility of a mishap or accident ruining your headphones.
Studio Headphone Reviews
Sennheisser HD 800 S (View on Amazon)
Certain names are simply trustworthy when it comes to audio performance. They may have built up decades of goodwill in the community or recent changes have brought them to the top of the heap, but you’ll feel safe when you buy one of these products. It’s important to remember, though, that name brand isn’t everything. Sometimes, you’ll need to take a listen to figure out if the headphones are really worthy of the name.
The good news is that the Sennheiser HD 800 S is every bit as good as the name brand would suggest. This is a fantastic piece of audio engineering, one that puts a listener about as close to a live performance as one can get. While there are certainly a few little nitpicks one can find here or there with the sound, you absolutely won’t find much better on the market. As this price point, you’re certainly getting exactly that for which you are paying.
To be fair, this set isn’t a huge upgrade over the HD 800. There are a few little changes that only major audiophiles are going to notice, but that’s the point of the headphones at this level. You’re going to need well-trained ears to fully appreciate all the differences, but it’s hard to sell someone on a pair of four-figure headphones if he or she isn’t already a bit of a connoisseur. As it stands, this headset makes for a spectacular musical experience that is honestly almost impossible to match at a consumer level.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro (View on Amazon)
It’s always important to remember that there’s a difference between a good pair of headphones and a great set that works well in the studio. While both have great sound quality, the latter will really impact the quality of your work. Great professional studio headphones aren’t an accessory – they are a tool.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is a really good example of how a professional pair of studio headphones can make a difference in listening to a recording. This set is one of the best bets for those who want to seek out the flaws in a recording, especially when looking for treble trouble. It packs in a ton of technology in a relatively small package, giving you access to all the tools you need to make sure that what you hear in the studio is going to be worth laying down. It’s overkill for listening to recordings, but that’s not the point of these headphones.
No, this isn’t quite the perfect pair of studio headphones. Most users report that they sound just a little too bright and that’s there’s not enough warmth in the tone overall. That said, they’re a solid choice that will serve anyone in the studio well. There may come a point at which you’ll want to replace this unit with something that’s got a bit more audio fidelity, but going to something better will require a fairly major jump in terms of both price and technology. As it stands, this is a perfectly good pair of headphones that will give you a great audio experience.
Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro 250 (View on Amazon)
Good studio headphones are tools made for a highly demanding job. You need the right headphones to help make sure that anything recorded in a studio actually comes out correctly when it is finished. This definitely means that there’s a great deal of stress on how well studio headphones need to work. The sound quality can’t just be good – it needs to be precise.
Precision might be the best word to describe these headphones. They’re not stylish or even super comfortable, but they are amazing at picking up sound. This is what most professionals are looking for when it comes to studio headphones, so taking a hit in the aesthetics column really doesn’t matter that much. Instead, one should take a moment to appreciate the fact that you’ll hear exactly what’s going on with any audio you record- something that will make a huge difference in the recording process.
The good news is that these are incredibly solid headphones. The bad news, though, is that you might run into problems if there is any damage. There are many reports of problems with customer service when trying to use the warranty, so be as careful with these headphones as possible. With proper care, they can last quite a while – just don’t expect much help from the manufacturer if you do run into any kind of problem.
Sennheisser HD 600 (View on Amazon)
There are a few keywords that come to mind when Sennheisser is mentioned. The first, of course, tends to be quality – the company makes some of the best headphones on the market. The other, though, is the expense. Sennheisser’s gear tends to be priced out of the range of the average consumer, as it’s intended for professionals and audiophiles. When looking at the headphones, it’s always a good idea to see if their utility lives up to the price tag.
Fortunately, the HD 600 is an amazing piece of work. Relatively inexpensive for a pair of headphones from this manufacturer, the HD 600 still brings the company’s legendary sound quality. It’s often sold along with headphones like Beats, but don’t be fooled – this is still a professional product that blows most consumer headphones out of the water. The sound quality here is amazing for something that you can essentially still use to listen to music from an iPhone.
If you want to nitpick, you could probably say that the sound fidelity isn’t as great as other headphones from the same manufacturer. These are definitely budget headphones compared to those, though, so you’ll get what you pay for. As it stands, these are fantastic studio headphones that are within the price range of more professionals than some of the more notoriously pricey Sennheisser products. Taken on their own merits, you’ll find a great pair of headphones that are as good for work as they are for leisure.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (View on Amazon)
There’s a big difference between traditional consumer headphones and studio headphones. While the former is great for pleasure, there’s a level of fidelity you really only get out of professional-grade equipment. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is a fantastic entry-level device for those who really want to see the difference between the two at work.
This headset is one of the best out there for proving the audio output of the device into which it is plugged. Most studio headsets are really just made for professional work, but this is a headset you can easily use to listen to music on your personal devices. You’ll quickly notice that some are much better than others, and this is a level of detail you’ll really only get out of a headset like this. Taking this step up in audio quality will be an amazing learning experience for those who have typically only used consumer headphones in the past.
There are a few real flaws here, though, that need to be discussed. The Bluetooth adapter absolutely ruins the sound quality here for two reasons. First and foremost, it adds a bit of buzzing that is likely to drive you insane. On a lesser note, it also makes the sound a bit tinny – not a dealbreaker, but not good, either. These are still really good entry-level studio headphones, of course, but be aware of those flaws. Try to avoid using the adapter when you can and use the headphones as intended- you’ll have a much better experience overall.
Sony MDR7506 (View on Amazon)
Specialized jobs need specialized gear. This is as true in the recording studio as it is anywhere else. If you’re listening to instruments as they are being recorded, it’s up to you to notice how well they fit into the mix. If you don’t have the right equipment, you’ll let sounds get by that should never make it on to the finished product. Fortunately, Sony does make a good set of studio headphones that can help you with this process.
If you’ve never used true studio headphones before, this is a great pair to start with. You’ll notice that anything you listen to sounds a little different – the sounds are just a bit more true, and you’ll definitely notice issues with the quality of the devices into which your headphones are plugged. It’s a whole new way of listening to music, one that will benefit you greatly as you work in a recording studio. Sony’s headphones are a fantastic entry point into an entirely new way of dealing with audio for most new studio techs.
There are mixed stories about how well these headphones are constructed, though. Some praise the feel of the headphones and their ability to stand up to repeated punishment, while others note that the cords tend to break and that customer service isn’t terribly helpful. The truth is probably that there are individual models that experience problems and that you should probably still be careful with these Sony headphones. If you use them as intended, there’s a very good chance that you’ll get a lot of use out of them.